For the first time in their history in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks have a geographical rival in the Seattle Kraken.
Now, it hasn’t had the time to grow into a real rivalry yet. That usually requires a couple of hard-fought playoff series or some sort of controversial incident in a regular season game that makes players and fans alike get amped up to play them.
They’re not there yet. First of all, Monday’s game at Rogers Arena was the first time the Kraken have visited Vancouver during the regular season. It’s tough to build that familiarity that breeds contempt this early on.
The other reason this isn’t a real rivalry yet is that the Kraken are in the NHL’s basement, ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes in the Western Conference standings. The Canucks might be unlikely to make the playoffs but they’re definitely better than the Kraken. A rivalry requires stakes and the stakes are tremendously low for the Kraken right now.
Still, a rivalry is inevitable when two teams are just a three-hour drive apart. And, when that rivalry does spark up, it will need a name.
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have The Battle of Alberta. The Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings have the Freeway Faceoff. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning have the Governor’s Cup.
What about the Canucks and Kraken?
Rink Wide’s Jeff Paterson might have nailed the name: the Nadia Cup.
It’s named for Nadia Popovici, the future medical school student who identified a cancerous mole on the neck of Canucks’ assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton at the first ever Kraken home game, where Popovici was seated behind the Canucks’ bench. The good Samaritan story spread far and wide, going beyond the hockey world.
Popovici was wearing Kraken colours at that game but she said she was originally a Canucks fan. So, when the Canucks brought her to Vancouver for the first regular season meeting between the Kraken and Canucks, she was decked out in a custom Popovici Canucks jersey.
It’s like the classic Simpsons hockey episode, “Lisa on Ice.” We want to see both teams fighting for Nadia’s love!
Instead of a trophy, the winner of the Nadia Cup could get a lovely crocheted hat, like the orca one Popovici wore to Monday’s game or the Kraken one she wore back in January in Seattle.
The Canucks are crushing the Kraken in the Nadia Cup, by the way. Monday’s was their third win in three meetings, with a combined score of 14-to-6. If the Kraken want a crocheted hat, they better step up their game, like they didn’t when I watched this game.
- Tyler Motte is arguably the fastest player on the Canucks but even he had to be surprised at the speed at which he scored the first goal of the game. The fourth line got in on the forecheck on the opening shift, Matthew Highmore got the puck down low to Juho Lammikko, and he fed Motte out front, who put the puck inside the far post for the opening goal just 11 seconds into the game.
- That’s the fastest goal in the NHL this season and the fourth fastest in Canucks history. Asked if it was the fastest he’d ever scored at any level, Motte laughed and said, “You might have to fact check it. It’s definitely up there.”
- The lead didn’t last long. Tyler Myers lost the puck in his skates in the neutral zone and the Kraken attacked 2-on-1. After the slip-up, Myers seemed completely discombobulated and misplayed the 2-on-1, laying down to early to block a non-existent pass. Instead, Marcus Johansson patiently outwaited Myers before sliding the puck across to Jared McCann for the tap-in goal.
- The Canucks have struggled on special teams this season but they managed to kill off all four of their penalties on Monday. The only problem is they couldn’t kill off their power play — Mark Giordano unexpectedly jumped up the ice and got in behind Elias Pettersson on a lofted clearance and then faked a move to the backhand on the breakaway and flicked the puck past Thatcher Demko on the forehand.
- “I didn’t know Giordano was skating on the outside,” said Pettersson. “If I would have known that, I would probably take a few extra hard strides. It is what it is, we got right back to it, I mean, shit happens. We just gotta have a short memory and just focus on the next shift.”
- Apparently, Lammikko is now an elite playmaker. After setting up Motte for the opening goal of the game from behind the net, he set up Travis Hamonic for the game-tying goal a few minutes into the second period from the same spot. It’s no longer Gretzky’s Office; it’s now the Finnish Embassy.
- It started with a great play by Motte to knock down an aerial pass behind the Kraken net. He then rotated up to the point and swung the puck down low to Lammikko. With Motte covering the point, Hamonic jumped up and found some space in the right faceoff circle, where Lammikko found him. His shot somehow snuck through Chris Driedger with Matthew Highmore creating some chaos in the crease.
- “They take direction really well,” said Boudreau of the Lammikko line. “They do what you ask them to do and they can all skate. You take that and they pressure, pressure, pressure. Where they were used to just holding their own, now they're starting to score some goals and that makes them even more valuable in my mind.”
- Hamonic nearly had another goal on the most bizarre and hilarious moment of the game. There was a hard-fought puck battle in the corner of the Canucks’ zone, with six players working to win the puck. Only, the puck wasn’t there. It had popped up and out of sight when Motte swatted at the puck to start the battle and Hamonic spotted it and was already carrying it the other way with Highmore, 2-on-2. Hamonic nearly scored on a criss-cross play with Highmore, only to be stymied by Dreidger’s left toe.
- “We were just hacking and whacking and the ref came in and was like, ‘It’s gone, it’s gone!’” said Motte and he couldn’t help but laugh. “I looked down and it’s gone!”
- I don’t know when Lammikko suddenly became a playmaker but he set up Motte for another great chance midway through the second period that Motte hammered off Driedger’s mask. Honestly, this Lammikko is nearly unrecognizable compared to the player we saw at the start of the year.
- The “fourth” line picked up the first two Canucks goals but the top-six chipped in as well. Elias Pettersson picked up the puck while covering for Quinn Hughes at the point, then found Hughes down the boards with a sharp pass. Hughes slipped down to the goal line and fired a hard, low shot that Driedger couldn’t handle and the rebound came right to Vasily Podkolzin on top of the crease, and he nailed the put-back jam, which honestly might have won him this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
- The best part of Podkolzin’s goal was his extremely excited celebration, which probably had something to do with him ending his 16-game goal drought.
- “I was so happy for him. He tries so hard and he works so hard,” said Boudreau. “When you get into a little bit of a prolonged slump, scoring a goal makes you feel an awful lot better.”
- A one-goal lead can be dangerous, particularly for the Canucks, who are one of the league’s worst teams when up by a goal. So, it must have been a massive relief when the Canucks cashed in on the power play in the opening minute of the third period. It was a simple enough play: after a Pettersson one-timer went wide, Miller collected the puck and fed Bo Horvat in the bumper before the Kraken found their structure. Horvat’s hot shot went off Driedger’s shoulder and in.
- That’s a big goal for Horvat, whose scoring has been sporadic this season. His line with Brock Boeser and Jason Dickinson dominated the Kraken like they were Davy Jones. Shot attempts were 18-to-6 for the Canucks with Horvat on the ice at 5-on-5 and shots on goal were 12-to-1. That’s about as far as the ice can tilt.
- Conor Garland is delightfully difficult to hit. This little zone entry on Jeremy Lauzon is fantastic. Garland leans in as if he’s going to meet Lauzon shoulder-to-shoulder, then darts out of the way at the last second, immediately getting in behind Lauzon with control of the puck to set up a chance.
- Demko wasn’t all that busy for most of the game as the Canucks thoroughly out-shot the Kraken, but he did have to make 14 saves in the third period. He was as good as he needed to be and it was a nice change of pace that he didn’t have to steal a game.
- The game was sealed with an empty net goal by — who else? — Tanner Pearson. It almost went very differently. McCann rung the crossbar with a wicked shot from above the right faceoff circle and the puck ricocheted to J.T. Miller, who sent Pearson away for the easy goal.